A Declaration of Social Principles (1917)

In the present general confusion of thought we deem it wise to restate the essential principles of the Universalist faith and their social implications in relation to modern life.

We proclaim the doctrine of the essential divinity of man, of God’s universal Fatherhood, and of man’s universal brotherhood. Upon this we build our claims to the divine and inherent right of democracy, which does not mean the pulling down of the few to the level of the many, but implies the giving to the many the culture, the responsibilities which beget self-restraint and rulership, and the arts and refinement of life which are now the possession of the few.

While in no wise minimizing the responsibility of the individual for his own life, we denounce as superstition the teaching that men are led into sin by inherent depravity as by devils of an unseen world; but we hold it to be self-evident that mankind is led into sin by evil surroundings, by the evils of unjust social and economic conditions, which condemn one to be born in the squalor and filth of the slums and another amidst the equally demoralizing influences of unearned luxury. We hold, therefore, that all systems that attempt to load the blame on Adam, upon Satan, or upon human depravity, tend to weaken human self-respect, and to lead men away from the discovery and cure of the real causes of human sin and misery.

In view of these conclusions, which we believe were plainly taught by the great Founder of Christianity, we insist that we should not judge one another any more, but rather, that we should remove the stumbling block and the barriers to the kingdom of heaven out of our brother’s way.

We conclude also that democracy is not only an inherent right, but also a divinely imposed duty. We find that none of us liveth or dieth to himself, and that true men and women should consider nothing foreign to them which is common to humanity.

Specifically, therefore, we urge that a full and free democracy be set up in our country, and that every man and woman be allowed to exercise the divine right and duty of personal responsibility in the acts of government, first, by the full extension of the franchise to women, and second, by granting each citizen a direct vote in the vital affairs of his own government.

We brand as infamous the practice of subordinating human interests to “business interests,” and we urge that the National Government should not hesitate to assume immediate control of the management of the production and distribution of the necessaries of life to prevent want and starvation and the economic enslavement of the people to predatory interests in time of crisis.

We assert that the claims of the religion of Jesus, the religion of democracy and of international brotherhood, transcend all the claims of race and of nationality, and that the highest form of patriotism demands we endeavor to place our nation in the position of one that seeks its permanent glory in subordinating selfish interests to those of the coming Federation of the World, in which “the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe.”

We confidently affirm our faith in God with us and in us, the assurance of the ultimate triumph of good. As our great Teacher has taught us to respect and reverence him in the very lowliest of humanity, and as one of his disciples wrote that love of God is shown in love of man, so we urge a higher and better morality than that based upon escaping hell and winning a heaven. We assert the old maxim, “Whatsoever ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” — the welfare of His children. We believe it to be the duty and the privilege of each one to be a co-worker with God towards that “long desire of the nations.” It is our duty, and our privilege, to keep ourselves at our best in body, mind, and spirit for the sake of the service which is ours to give. In this faith and in this service we invite the co-operation of all.

Program

The Universalist Church recognizes the fact that no individual and no nation can live a completely effective Christian life in an unchristian social order. We therefore declare the primal task of the church of to-day to be the reconstruction of the world’s civilization in terms of justice, peace and righteousness, so that the spiritual life of all may develop to its fullest capacity.

To this end we submit the following working program:

Through all the agencies of the church we shall endeavor to educate and inspire the community and the nation to a keener social consciousness and a truer vision of the kingdom of God n the earth.

We want to safeguard marriage so that every child shall be born with a sound physical, mental, and moral heritage.

We want to guarantee to every child these conditions of housing, education, food and recreation which will enable him to become his best.

The standard and plane of living for all should be such that deterioration becomes impossible and advancement becomes limited only by capacity.

Democracy, in order to be complete, must be economic and social as well as political. We therefore declare for the democratization of industry and of land, and for the establishment of co-operation.

We would condemn those forms of private monopoly which make it difficulty or impossible for men to attain their common share of the common heritage of the earth, and especially do we condemn those forms of exploitation which in time of national stress and suffering make the few wealthy at the cost of the many.

No democracy can be real which shuts out half the people. Women should therefore have equal economic, social and political rights with men.

Free discussion is the soul of democracy and the guarantee of our liberties. It should therefore be maintained in our churches, colleges, and public platforms, and limited only be mutual self-respect and courtesy.

We recognize in the use of narcotic habit-forming drugs an immanent peril to social welfare, and we are particularly alarmed at the extent to which tobacco, in the form of cigarettes, is undermining the health and character of American youth. We therefore recommend action toward securing national prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquors, and such progress in restriction of the manufacture of cigarettes and the sale of tobacco as public welfare shall require and public sentiment support. We particularly commend the tobacco laws of Kansas as a model for all the states.

While co-operating to the fullest extent possible with the various forms of charity, relief and correction, we recognize they do not eradicate fundamental causes. We would mobilize the forces of our church against the causes which create misery, disease, accidents, ignorance and crime, and summon all our strength to the establishment of justice, education and social righteousness.

Some forms of social insurance should gradually replace the present individualistic and inadequate methods of charitable relief.

War is brutalizing, wasteful, and ineffective. We therefore pledge ourselves to work for the organization and federation of the world, that peace may be secured at the earliest possible date consistent with justice for all.

The Universalist Church offers a complete program for completing humanity:

First: An Economic Order which shall give to every human being an equal share in the common gifts of God, and in addition all that he shall earn by his own labor.

Second: A Social Order in which there shall be equal rights for all, special privileges for none, the help of the strong for the weak until the weak become strong.

Third: A Moral Order in which all human law and action shall be the expression of the moral order of the universe.

Fourth: A Spiritual Order which shall build out of the growing lives of living men the growing temple of the living God.

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